Laced with the sounds of water churned by unseen forces, the thick air that hangs above the Everglades whispers the rhythms of gator country. The murky water—obscured further by curtains of cattails and floating lily pads—defies human incursion, its protective spells demystified only by the airboat captains of Sawgrass Recreation Park, who gamely shuttle laypersons through the swamp in tours by day and night. While gliding across the shallows at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, guides halt the propellers of their enormous fans to point out wildlife—which include alligators and various waterfowl—and impart nuggets of history from the days when the Seminole and panther once shared their claim over the terrain. As a part of a conservationist group's effort to educate the public about ongoing rescue efforts in the Everglades, the exotic-wildlife exhibit brings guests face to face with the swamp's most majestic rarities, including black leopards and Florida panthers. In the park's reptile exhibit, dozens of scaly creatures count among them a 1,000-pound alligator named Cannibal, and guests can cradle prehistoric cuties in the Hold a Baby Alligator experience. The swamp-yard-animals exhibit encourages guests to meet or catch a glimpse of pigs, bunnies, and ducks, letting guests establish a deeper bond with the denizens of the swamp.
Lady of America Women's Fitness Club spreads female-focused wellness across the nation by furnishing each of its franchise locations with equipment and classes designed with women's bodies in mind. Each locale stocks a strength-training area with machines sized specifically for the feminine frame, and ellipticals and stationary bicycles help to chisel gams without transporting users across state borders. Instructors conduct such group classes as kickboxing, belly dancing, and Zumba aboard a floating aerobics floor, whose softened surface diminishes stress on joints. Throughout each facility, personal trainers patrol public zones to acquaint guests with exercise gear or host one-on-one sessions. Depending on the location, clubs might also include complimentary onsite childcare, brow dabbing, and amenities ranging from infrared saunas to manicures.
At the Art Institute of Weston, master artist Conchita Firgau and her associate professors lead students of all ages in learning the classic style of European painting. Drawing on traditions of color, light, and composition practiced by Renaissance painters, Conchita and her staff give students the confidence and skill to develop their own style. But painting is not the only activity that goes on here. Photography classes help shutterbugs master digital cameras, and guitar classes use fun, easily digestible techniques to give more credibility to students’ air-guitar performances. The friendly studio also hosts after-school programs and camps to hone kids’ artistic talents.
The owners of Starfall Ranch not only share a bloodline, but also the opinion that budding equestrians should evolve at their own pace. Consequently, personalized instruction forms the cornerstone of private and group lessons that take place within two acres of scenic grounds. Riding sessions are calibrated according to ability—novice students learn basic skills such as tacking and grooming, whereas advanced students acquire intricate knowledge of topics such as bareback riding and parallel parking. At summer camp, the trainers teach English-style riding to entire crews, interspersing instruction with swimming and trail rides.
It isn’t often that a golfer gets to stare down the same approach over water or lay up in front of the same fairway stream as Tiger Woods, Sergio García, and Jesper Parnevik. But on Bonaventure Country Club’s East Course, one can do just that: the par 72 half of this 36-hole club hosts the Dixie Amateur tournament, in which all three of the PGA pros at one time competed.
From the waterfall crashing alongside the East Course’s third green to its presence on hole No. 5, water is never far from golfers —crowding tee shots, threatening to swallow errant drives, and following them home in to-go cups from the onsite Sunset Grill.
East Course at a Glance:
Studio director Alina Primelles began practicing yoga at the age of 15 and dedicated herself to her practice, honing her technique and learning to teach classes herself. Now joined by a staff of instructors, Alina leads students of varying skill levels, abilities, and interests through an eclectic schedule of sessions that, like a treadmill-powered Jeopardy board, exercises minds and bodies. The versatile practice space accommodates a variety of yoga styles, including hot yoga, which takes advantage of magma-filled heating ducts to raise the studio space up to a sweat-inducing 100 degrees. Blue Sol Yoga's mirror-lined practice room also hosts occasional workshops, special events, and chakra cotillions in order to broaden students' yogic horizons.
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